BABYLON BY BUS by Ray Lemoine

BABYLON BY BUS

or, the True Story of Two Friends Who Gave Up Their Valuable Franchise Selling YANKEES SUCK T-Shirts at Fenway to Find Meaning and Adventure in Iraq, Where They Became Employed by the Occupation in Jobs for Which They Lacked Qualification and Witnessed Mu
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KIRKUS REVIEW

“Or,” as the subtitle puts it, “the True Story of Two Friends Who Gave Up Their Valuable Franchise Selling YANKEES SUCK T-Shirts at Fenway to Find Meaning and Adventure in Iraq, Where They Became Employed by the Occupation in Jobs for Which They Lacked Qualification and Witnessed Much That Amazed and Disturbed Them.”

Two feckless BoSox fanatics and first-time authors travel to Baghdad, where they manage to find some feck and do some good. They don’t begin as characters many readers will like. (For simplicity’s sake, LeMoine narrates their memoir.) When they decided to go to Iraq in October 2003, prompted by a heartbreaking-for-Boston World Series, they were young and dumb, full of early-20s certainty that they would never die and that just about everyone else was an idiot. But amid ruin and chaos in one of the most dangerous places on earth, they discovered that they liked to help the helpless, they realized their frailty, they . . . well, matured (sort of). The authors are certainly unafraid to admit their weaknesses, characterizing their 2003 selves as stupid, ignorant and gullible. What they did was indeed jaw-dropping in its chutzpah. In Jordan, they boarded a creaking bus to Baghdad, where they weaseled their way into working for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Soon, they were operating a charity they named HAND (Humanitarian Aid Network of Distribution) by day and downing drugs—alcohol and valium were their preferred downers—by night. Each day they drove out of the Green Zone (the high-security safety area) into what they called the Red Zone, where they distributed boxes of used clothing to swarms of children. They figured out how to circumvent or manipulate the military presence, how to communicate with Iraqis, where to find the best tobacco and the most drunken parties. When the U.S. shut down some opposition media, sectarian violence began to intensify, especially after the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted. In Jordan, the authors got in some scuffles, and the U.S. military cut them loose. Back home, they heard about the violent deaths of two friends in Baghdad. Some of the war-zone madness is reminiscent of Catch-22; some of the sorrow and tragedy is too.

Or, “How Bill and Ted’s Self-Indulgent Adventure Became William and Theodore’s Moving Memoir.”

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 2006
ISBN: 1-59420-091-2
Page count: 316pp
Publisher: Penguin Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2006




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